Skelton eyes the Coral Cup for Long House Hall

Derek O'Connor and Edwulf in the parade ring after victory in The Unibet Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.Derek O'Connor and Edwulf in the parade ring after victory in The Unibet Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
Derek O'Connor and Edwulf in the parade ring after victory in The Unibet Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
Sky Bet Chase fourth Long House Hall will switch back to hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival ahead of a potential Randox Health Grand National tilt.

Trainer Dan Skelton intends to give the 10-year-old an outing in the Coral Cup – in which he took second in 2016 – after he finished a respectable fourth at Doncaster last month on his first start in more than a year and a half.

Skelton said: “He will run in the Coral Cup and then we will think about it. We wanted to get through the Sky Bet Chase first and go from there.

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“We just felt why not, as we were second in it two years ago, so you never know what might happen.

“I was really happy with how he jumped at Doncaster. He has always been a good jumper, but I just felt that was a lot better again.

“We will take in the next stage and have another think about it from there. He could be a Topham horse, if not a National horse.”

A potential Coral Cup opponent for Long House Hall is Irish mare Jer’s Girl, who has been rested since finishing second to La Bague Au Roi at Kempton in November.

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The six-year-old could have three Festival entries including the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, in which she fell three flights from home last season when still travelling well.

Her trainer Gavin Cromwell said: “She’s in the Mares’, she’s in the Stayers’ Hurdle and she’ll probably have an entry in the Coral Cup.

“I don’t know at this stage which race we’ll go for. I’ll have a chat with Frank (Berry, owner JP McManus’ racing manager).

“She’s in great order. I’m happy with her.”

Cromwell has taken Espoir D’Allen out of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Triumph Hurdle, though.

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The French import, also owned by McManus, won his first four starts over hurdles between October and December, but showed the effects of that busy spell when well beaten in the Grade One Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown earlier this month.

“He’ll be fine. He raced very keen the last day and he bottomed himself out and was a bit quiet for a while,” said Cromwell.

“Cheltenham is going to come too soon and he’s been busy all season. Please God he’ll make one of the other spring festivals later on.”

McManus has the ante-post favourite for the Triumph in the shape of Apple’s Shakira, trained by Nicky Henderson, and could have his famous green and gold silks carried by Edwulf in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

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The Joseph O’Brien-trained gelding produced a fairytale comeback to take the Irish Gold Cup at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival, having come close to death when collapsing at Prestbury Park last March.

Not surprisingly, O’Brien is taking a cautious approach with the nine-year-old and will see how he is closer to the time before committing him to a blue riband challenge.

“He seems to have come out of the race well,” said O’Brien.

“I’ll have to speak to Frank and JP and see what the plan is. Obviously if he was to go to Cheltenham, the Gold Cup is the obvious race for him.

“To be honest, the most important thing with him was to see how he was a couple of weeks afterwards.

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“He’s entered in those races so we don’t have to make that decision for another two weeks really.

“We’ll see what the ground is like and see what our other options are.

“There are plenty of things we can do with him if we don’t go there.”

The O’Brien-trained Tower Bridge is firmly on course for Cheltenham but despite holding an entry in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, he could still be supplemented for the Albert Bartlett over three miles.

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He was a shock 25-1 winner of the Grade One Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown last time out.

“He’s entered in the Ballymore and we might think about supplementing him for the Albert Bartlett,” said O’Brien. “If he’s well, he’ll go to Cheltenham for one of the races. Whether it’s the two-five or the three-mile, that will be decided closer to the time when we get a feel of what might be running in the two-five and other things.

“Obviously he’s Flat-bred and that’s probably the reason I didn’t have him entered in the three-miler originally, but he looks to stay very well.

“He looked to stay very well in his bumpers, also, and has a very good attitude.

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“His jumping has improved considerably with each race and you’d have to say, on the whole, he was very good in Leopardstown.

“He should be better on better ground, I’d imagine, as well. He won a couple of bumpers very impressively on good ground.

“He’s a big, good-looking sort, so he’s an exciting horse.”

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